Quitting the competition, while still running the race
June 16, 2009 7:25 AM   Subscribe

Help me get my focus back on my own life and happiness and stop comparing/competing with my ex in my own mind... and stop having how I compare with others as a condition to my happiness/self esteem in general...

3 months ago I found out my boyfriend had been cheating on me, so I packed my bags the same day and moved back to my home town (I'd moved city to live with him, had been there a year) to try to rebuild my life. I've been doing a pretty good job of that, all things considered, and now have a great job, am studying and keeping busy with my sport, have reconnected with all my friends and have a pretty good social life, but I still find myself comparing or competing with him in the back of my mind... wondering whether I'm doing better or worse than he is (I cut off all contact so I don't know anything for certain and he doesn't know what I'm up to)... even though I know it doesn't matter and there's enough happiness to go around for both of us.

Due to the fact that he cheated on me with much prettier girls, my already shaky confidence in terms of attractiveness, has taken a bit of a beating, whereas he would have got a huge ego boost and being very handsome, charming and a seasoned player who knows what people want to hear, no doubt has more girls on tap. I've been getting some male attention which has been reassuring but somehow I feel like maybe I should be trying to be a player like he was, and compete with him on that level. Then I remember that I actually *don't* want to just have a whole bunch of meaningless encounters or dishonest relationships just to stroke my ego, I would at some point like to have a real, caring relationship, if indeed such a thing is a realistic expectation, and I certainly don't want to use or decieve anyone the way he did me. Sometimes I worry that maybe the fact that I want something different in terms of relationships to what he wants is some kind of deficiency and Mr Player knows something I don't.

We also compete in the same sport, him much more successfully than I, and I'm sure that would continue to be the case, and to be honest, that bothers me. I always put in 100% effort but he has more natural talent and experience. I hate that he was so awful and is living out my dream.

I know I need to go back to thinking in terms of "me" not "we" and just focus on my own life and have that be enough in and of itself, and that he is not the kind of person I should even want to be like, but there's always a little voice in my head when something good happens going "haha, take that, I win" and the opposite when something bad happens. And then, as in the above example, sometimes I want things I don't even want, just so that I can feel like I came out alright. I guess I have a bit of a fear that he's just more of a winner in life and I'm the loser who got played - I don't want to think like this!

I know I am a competitive person anyway, and I have always been guilty of comparing myself to others, to the detriment of my own happiness, but I want to change. I want to stop comparing myself to him, and to other people, and stop setting "being better/the best" as a precondition to my happiness/sense of self worth. I feel like I'm wasting my life away like this!

What are some things I can think about or do to help me live my life in the context of my own personal values/goals/dreams again and not keep having to compete to prove to him or myself that I am a great person?
posted by Chrysalis to Human Relations (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You're still in the active grief/shock stage of getting over him. While you should let yourself feel what you're feeling, because it's an important part of the process, you should also continue to remind yourself that a lot of the things you're thinking and feeling are a result of going through grief, not a reflection of what you actually want or need.

It sounds as though you're doing that by remembering that you don't want meaningless flings just because he had them. But also remind yourself that you will get past this, that you will someday not care whether or not he's happy or winning his at his sort or dating hot girls. It's okay to feel the feelings you're having now, but reminding yourself that the feelings will eventually fade will help you to keep some perspective about things.

You're doing all the right things. But this will take time. Give yourself the time you need.
posted by decathecting at 8:01 AM on June 16, 2009

First of all, good for you for leaving and not putting up with that kind of behaviour. Realize that the fact that he lacked the integrity to remain loyal to someone with whom he was in a committed relationship already demonstrates that he isn't quite the "great person" you think he is. Also realize that it's only been three months since you split up with someone you've spent at least a year with (and most probably longer, if you were willing to move to a different city to stay with him). Three months isn't a very long time to get over a major, abrupt heartbreak. Things will get better in time.

You say your ego's taken a hit from the fact that he hit on "prettier girls". Leaving aside for a moment the fact that beauty is more often than not subjective and I guarantee you that there are people who will find you far more beautiful than the girls your ex cheated on you with, also consider the fact that his drive to get affirmation and an ego boost at all costs reflects far more on his insecurity than your absolute worth.

I can also be an incredibly competitive person, depending on what I am. And I, too, find that often I give in far more effort than some of my friends, but they often end up with better results. The way I get over this is by remembering two things - One, I probably have advantages and natural talents that other people are jealous of, too. No one will be the best at everything. Think fo things that you do better than your ex (and they exist, trust me) and remind yourself consciously that you are an awesome person, too. Two, recognize that the ability to put in the effort and get down to work when it comes to it can be just as valuable, if not more than natural talent. Natural talent will only carry you so far in life; in the end, you'll find that most of the successful people are disciplined and hardworking.

And my final thought for the day - why let some jerk like that control your happiness? Consider it this way: letting him control and affect your mood to this extent, whether or not he's aware of it, means that he "wins" far more decisively than any actual advantage he has over you. If you can look at his achievements and say "good for him, I have my own life" that allows you to enjoy what you have and be graceful towards someone who once wronged you. And that is impressive.
posted by Phire at 8:06 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

It's only been three months - - and that's three months after moving in and after a big cheaty breach of trust! Give yourself time to remember that you're fabulous!

I've had a player like your boy. Loved sports and the bar scene. I was horrified to find out what he was getting up to at the bars without me! Since we broke up, he's gained about 20 lbs of muscle, grown a fabulous career, and a rippling six-pack. He's now dating a beautiful model/dancer who makes the same poutface in all photos. Hrrmph. At least I don't have a professional obligation to avoid pancakes.

Cry. Spend time with your friends. Work out some of the aggression in your sport. Dance and laugh and remind yourself that ultimately, you wanted different things - and now you don't have to entertain your own pet narcissist. It gets better :)
posted by soft and hardcore taters at 8:10 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Your only goal in life is to be the happiest, most satisfied, best Chrysalis you can be.

That's the only thing that matters. It's pretty much why you're here on earth. You have complete control over it, and no one else can do it for you.

Is competing with your ex making you happy? If you went down with everything but the Titanic and got more wieners in you than a fat guy at a baseball game, do you think at the end of it you'd say "whoo hoo! I beat my ex at the meaningless sex game! I am totally contented and happy with myself and all my problems are solved!" Doubtful. Your self-confidence issues would still be there, and you still wouldn't be over the cocksucker.

If you magically underwent a superficial makeover overnight and woke up "much prettier," would you automatically be confident and happy? Don't think so.

The standards you're judging yourself by are flawed. You need to create your own standards for happiness. This is something really personal, and has absolutely nothing to do with what everyone else is doing.

Just as an example, here are some of my standards for happiness:

I'm cooking tasty, interesting food from scratch, and not just eating overpriced prepacked junk.

I'm making progress in goals that are important to me like saving money and looking for a new job.

I'm going to concerts regularly. I have at least one sweet show in recent memory and have something coming up.

I'm going out with my friends at least once a week.

I'm spending at least one night a week relaxing on the couch with a tasty Criterion or indie movie from the library and a few microbrews.

Those are the ingredients for a happy Juliet Banana. Someone else might think that life is boring. Some one else might envy it. I don't know, I don't care. All I know is that's what it takes for me to be content. I don't need to be Facebook stalking my boyfriend's ex, or dwelling on shitty past memories, or being petty and vindictive towards girls I know don't like me, or a million other unhealthy behaviors I know I might have a tendancy toward but I know are wrong for me and make me unhappy.

I make a choice not to do the behaviors that make me unhappy, and I make a choice to do the things that make me happy, for myself. That's what you have to do, darling. It's completely up to you. Not to be all YOU GO GIRL but you have the power. I think we all have the ability to choose happiness for ourselves.

Identify the unhealthy behaviors in your life, and acknowledge that they serve no purpose but making you unhappy. Then cut them out of your life. It's harder than it sounds, I know, but whenever you catch yourself comparing yourself to someone else, force yourself to think about something positive and unique about yourself that no one else has.

Identify the healthy things in your life that you really need to be happy, and put your energy toward working on them! Use that competitive energy to make Happy, Well-Adjusted Chrysalis kick Unhappy, Insecure Chrysalis' ass.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:31 AM on June 16, 2009 [22 favorites]

Envy, jealousy, justifiable rage, sadness, sense of loss - sounds like me when I found out my good for nothing ex now has a Phd, a career that flies him all over the world, and bags of money. But is he a good human being, someone I'd like to know and share a life with? NO! Does he have friends, family and children who love and respect him? NO! His values are not mine and I wouldn't swap his life for mine. Took me a month or three to stop feeling like my heart was being ripped out of my chest, but common sense won in the end.

OK, he's better at some things than you are. Well, I bet you're better at some things than he is, for starters, being a good and decent human being. So, he played you. Well, not much you can do about that except chalk it up to one of life's lessons. Everyone experiences this at some time although the circumstances differ. As for the women 'prettier than you', that's your estimation. Remember a lot of women look good: in a bar; under the right light; with the right grooming aids. You've made a wonderful start at a new life. Be competitive, but compete against yourself, not him. Set goals that matter to you and you alone. It takes a while to reset life after a break up. It gets easier as you go along. I don't think you're a loser. A loser would have stayed and put up with his bad behaviour and made excuses for it. You left.
posted by x46 at 8:57 AM on June 16, 2009

Best answer: I've had similar feelings after similar breakups, as I think a lot of people have, both male and female. You should consider that HE is the one who is broken. Your current sadness is proof that you are capable of feeling love and intimacy and commitment; his cheating on you with pretty people means he is (so far, in his life) unable to truly feel those things. You are better than him in a very big, important way. Remember that.

There's one particular model-attractive ex I see around town from time to time -- we only dated for a couple of months, luckily, and there was no cheating, just a sudden end -- and whenever I see him with another model-worthy woman, I pity her. Not because she's pathetic -- but, just like me, she has no idea what she's getting herself into!

It would probably be more enlightened of me to be above such thoughts, but hey -- it's worked for me. I no longer feel any twinges of "I just wasn't hot enough" at all. If being with that guy means you are attractive, what does that get you? It gets you a guy who cheats. Who needs it?
posted by chowflap at 9:04 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Continue taking the high road and living authentically, as they say. How you're feeling is only natural after such devastation. Keep busy, be kind to yourself, and keep trucking.
posted by heather-b at 9:30 AM on June 16, 2009

I say you pat yourself on the back for taking immediate action and dumping him and not looking back. That is awesome!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:31 AM on June 16, 2009

Maybe try to do a new sport or activity that is not associated with your ex-boyfriend and be incredibly awesome at it? (For example, if you know he isn't into tennis, you can take lessons, get involved with a league, make new friends around it, move up the ladder). Or, if you want to get out of the competitive mode altogether, do something new that isn't about winning or losing and work on perfecting your form and technique. Take up cooking, pilates, yoga, gardening, metalwork, knitting, whatever. Perhaps a new activity or skill will give you additional confidence.
posted by *s at 10:42 AM on June 16, 2009

Best answer: Why do you need to compete with or feel inferior to someone who is clearly insecure, has no respect for a person he supposedly loved, and has shallow values in a relationship?

Eventually, everyone will realize he's an asshole even if he doesn't. That doesn't make him a winner. AT ALL.

I'm like you; very competitive and a perfectionist. I was like that with my ex. I'm so much happier now that I'm not with someone I feel that way about. Now, I'm just myself! You'll get there, it'll just take some time.

If you want to feel valued and important and loved, try volunteering for Meals on Wheels. You might be the only human contact that person has all day. Another person's well-being and very life will depend on you. That's pretty empowering and humbling, by the way... I highly recommend it.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:16 PM on June 16, 2009

All is not roses with him, I'd betcha. Remember you're seeing things from the outside. First, time, time, time will help with the feelings of competitiveness with him. While it's rough though, I suggest trying to turn things around. In my darkest hour I told myself "What if he knew how bad I'm feeling? What if he knew I did x because of him?" This pushed me somewhat to limit my moping around.

Now, as a small "win" to make you feel better, in my situation: he cheated, she cheated, they got married, less than 2 years later they got divorced. Karma is a beeeyotch. :)
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:55 PM on June 16, 2009

I have a perfect book recommendation for you. (I read this book three times during a very rough patch in my life when I was consumed by comparisons). It is a rare book--on a subject that is not covered very often. He has a book on jealously and possessiveness too. Very very helpful. I promise.
Overcoming the Rating Game by Paul Hauck
posted by naplesyellow at 12:10 AM on June 17, 2009

As a fellow competitive spirit, I'd take a totally different approach than the other commenters:

Start kicking ass.

Why is he better in your sport? What can you do to make more money than he does, to be more accomplished than he is, to enjoy and explore your life more? Is there some recognition you can get for your artistic pursuits, your educational endeavors, your work? Find something amazing to do that makes you very happy.

I don't believe in karma. There are many people who do really crappy things and have great lives. I think karma is what you make of it. So be a good person, but also find a way to kick some ass.

There is nothing wrong with you for not wanting to be a player. There is also nothing wrong with having something to prove and seeing if being a player is the right thing for you or helps you get over your breakup.

Being a player is not hard. You could probably have twice as many partners as he does if you wanted to. You can be better than he is at it quite easily -- females have a special advantage at this. If it makes you feel like a winner (or you're just curious about it), try it for a few months.

Once you get good at that, you'll realize that you can be a player too. It's not much of a challenge, really. However, you are also good at having a long-term relationship and being faithful -- and he is not. So if you learn to be a player for a few months, you will have both skills and he will only have one.

This is a really hard part of the breakup process. Don't feel bad that you are feeling competitive; it's another way to channel the massive energy of the breakup into something valuable, and it beats depression any day.

Best to you.
posted by metametababe at 4:31 PM on September 5, 2009

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